Officials: 5 killed in northern Lebanon explosion

Lebanese residents, background, look at the remains of a booby-trapped car that was parked on a roadside and exploded near a bus transporting Lebanese soldiers in the northern city of Tripoli, Lebanon, Monday, Sept. 29, 2008. A car bomb exploded near a military bus carrying troops heading to their work in northern Lebanon Monday, killing at least five people and wounding 21, Lebanese security officials said. (AP Photo)
By  | 

TRIPOLI, Lebanon (AP) -- A car bomb exploded Monday near a military bus carrying troops going to work in northern Lebanon, killing at least five people and injuring 25 others, Lebanese security officials said.

A senior military official told The Associated Press that four soldiers were among the dead and that 22 of the injured in six area hospitals were soldiers.

It was the second deadly attack targeting troops in northern Lebanon in less than two months.

Security officials said the car packed with explosives was parked on the side of a road and detonated by remote control as the bus drove in the Bahsas neighborhood on the southern entrance to the northern port city of Tripoli.

They said the explosives used were mixed with ball bearings to maximize casualties.

The blast, which tossed the car about a dozen yards, occurred during the morning rush hour, according to the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Television footage showed pieces of flesh strewn on the road. The owner of the car later showed up at the site, according to several television stations, and was picked up by intelligence agents for questioning about the circumstances surrounding the explosion.

That suggested that the owner may have bcccceen unaware that his car was rigged.

Tripoli has been rocked by sectarian fighting between pro-government Sunni fighters and pro-Syrian gunmen of the Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam that killed or wounded dozens in the summer before a truce was reached.

On Aug. 13, 18 soldiers and civilians were killed by a roadside bomb near a bus carrying troops on a busy Tripoli street. It was Lebanon's deadliest bombing in more than three years.

Monday's explosion came two days after a massive bombing in the capital of neighboring Syria killed 17 people and wounded 14. Syria said on Monday the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber from a Muslim extremist group and that the vehicle came from a neighboring Arab country.

An unnamed Syrian official quoted by the official news agency in Damascus on Monday condemned the attack.

Syria has been blamed by opponents here for bombings in Lebanon in the last three years, accusations Damascus has denied.

Tripoli, about 50 miles north of Beirut on the Mediterranean coast, is a majority Sunni city and is Lebanon's second-largest. The region there is known to be a strong base for Sunni militants.

Sheik Daie al-Islam al-Shahal, founder of the fundamentalist Salafi Sunni movement in northern Lebanon, said Monday's attack was part of the conflict among "external forces" in Lebanon and rejected suggestions that Sunni militants were behind it.

"The false allegations and haste do not help stability and cause tensions," said al-Shahal, Lebanon's most powerful Salafist leader.